Egyptians are so excited about the new $8.5bn Suez Canal that public attendance at its official opening next month will be decided by lottery.
Just a year after the start of construction on a new channel alongside the 150-year-old canal, the first ships passed through in a trial run on Saturday, 25 July.
But the full official opening is scheduled for 6 August.
The new 72km route allows two-way traffic and can accommodate larger vessels.
The government believes that increased traffic will boost revenues to $13.2bn by 2023, up from $5.3bn now.
Such is the pride among ordinary Egyptians over the new canal that they flocked en masse to buy bonds last year, raising nearly the total needed for construction costs.
Now authorities fear the crowds attending the opening will be too hard to manage in an area requiring tight security.
According to newspaper AhramOnline the Suez Canal Authority will hold a lottery to decide who will attend the opening ceremony.
Attendees will be selected from a pool of Egyptian citizens who applied to participate in the event, which will be attended by heads of state from around the world.
The authority’s Facebook page had announced last week that applications to attend the opening would be available for all citizens.
But the response was so big that on Sunday 26 July the site said it would no longer accept applications, and a lottery system would be used instead.
Photograph: A US aircraft carrier approaches the Mubarak Peace Bridge in the Suez Canal in 2006 (Amanda M. Williams/Wikimedia Commons)